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Dead Can Dance (not to be confused with The Dead Can Dance) was an Australian band active from 1981 to 1998. Fronted by Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard, it started out as a regular gothic/Post Punk act, and gradually broadened its scope with other musical genres (especially neoclassical and world music), all the while retaining a typical dark and brooding, but not specifically angsty, atmosphere. Due to its ethereal sound and being active on the Four AD Records label, the band was frequently associated with the Dream Pop genre, despite the predomimance of neoclassical, ethereal wave and world music influences.

Their debut album, simply titled Dead Can Dance and released in 1984, is already a noticeable blend of Perry's rock-influenced style and Gerrard's more introspective, borderline mystical one, but arguably the Post Punk leanings make it more of an example of Early Installment Weirdness. The same dynamic is felt in their next two albums, Spleen and Ideal (the title is a reference to Baudelaire) and Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun, but these gradually dialed down the Post Punk Goth elements in favour of the band's Signature Style.

At that point they started experimenting with classical instruments (oboe, string section) and in their following album, The Serpent's Egg, they introduced baroque and medieval rhythms, laying the groundwork for their seminal work Aion. They next ventured into Oriental-influenced music with Into the Labyrinth, their first album to be released in the USA, and Lisa Gerrard developed what would become her Signature Style during her subsequent solo career, the One-Woman Wail.

After one more album, Spiritchaser, which attempted to explore tribal rhythms but came out as a disappointing New Age-y and world music-style work, the duo split up in 1998. They temporarily reunited for a world tour in 2005.

Discography:

  • Dead Can Dance (1984); CD versions add the Garden of the Arcane Delights EP as bonus tracks.
  • Spleen and Ideal (1986)
  • Within the Realm of a Dying Sun (1987)
  • The Serpent's Egg (1988)
  • Aion (1990)
  • A Passage in Time (1991), compilation released exclusively for the USA where their albums were previously not available
  • Into the Labyrinth (1993), their first album distributed in the USA after the 4AD-Warner Bros. deal
  • Toward the Within (1994), the band's only official live album
  • Spiritchaser (1996)

Dead Can Dance provide examples of:

  • Black Sheep Hit: "The Ubiquituous Mr. Lovegrove".
  • Cover Version: They were prone to recording covers of traditional songs, e.g. "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" on Into the Labyrinth. They also were on the receiving end when Ride took a stab at "Severance" for a Peel session.
  • Darker and Edgier: Yes, compared to their early material, they managed to Darker and Edgier themselves by dialing up the ominousness.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: As noted, their first album in particular is more influenced by Post Punk and Goth Rock compared to their more famous brooding-mystical-prophets-of-doom style.
  • Executive Meddling: Due to the unintentional similarity of "Indus"' melody to "Within You Without You", the band were asked to contact George Harrison and request permission to use it. Harrison gave them permission, but his record company demanded that he also receive a partial songwriting credit.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: "Orbis de Ignis".
  • I Am the Band: Into the Labyrinth was the first album Perry and Gerrard wrote and recorded entirely by themselves, without the guest musicians of previous outings.
  • One-Woman Wail: Lisa Gerrard.
  • The Pete Best: The first album also included Paul Erikson, James Pinker, Scott Rodger and Peter Ulrich as bandmembers, but Pinker, Erikson and Rodger soon left. Ulrich stayed on until Within the Realm of a Dying Sun but also departed afterwards, reducing Dead Can Dance to a duo.
  • Recycled Trailer Music: "The Host of Seraphim".
  • Sampling: They did it quite a bit. Also, Gerrard's vocals from "Dawn of the Iconoclast" were sampled by Future Sound Of London for the track "Papua New Guinea".
  • Singing Simlish: Lisa Gerrard, again. Probably the most famous practitioner of such on Four AD Records besides Elizabeth Fraser.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Frequent. Even Brendan Perry does it on occasion.
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